All of Egypt seemed to be bracing for horrors that may come on Sunday evening, as demonstrations are expected to come to a head around the presidential palace and in Tahrir Square and other squares across the country on the first anniversary of Morsi taking office.
A military spokesman told the state news agency Friday that the military is deploying nationwide to avoid “a 28 January 2011 scenario,” referring to the deadliest day of Egypt’s popular uprising.
On Saturday, Morsi met with his defense minister and interior minister to discuss the security of vital institutions ahead of Sunday’s mass demonstrations, according to al-Masry al-Youm, an independent daily. The newspaper, quoting unnamed presidential aides, also said Morsi and his family had moved from their house — a residence separate from the palace — to a secondary presidential residence that would be easier to secure.
State media reported that gold shops had closed Friday in anticipation of unrest, and rumors circulated in wealthy and middle-class circles that ATMs would soon run out of cash.
The broad sense of impending doom marked a dramatic turnaround for this country of 85 million, where one year ago the first democratic presidential election in the country’s history brought Morsi to power and was deemed a step toward modernity and free politics after six decades of military dictatorship.
But many Egyptians, including some who voted for Morsi, are angry about how things have turned out. The president has failed to pull Egypt out of an economic quagmire or rectify its billions of dollars in debt. Morsi’s opponents say the president has focused instead on consolidating the power of the Brotherhood — actions that they say has deprived him of his legitimacy as head of state.
More than two years after revolution ended the 30-year rule of former president Hosni Mubarak, excitement about the democratic process has faded. Politics has created bitter societal rifts, fueling a standoff pitting a growing number of liberal, secular and poor Egyptians against the president’s Islamist supporters.
“Both parties think that they can win the game,” said Khalil al-Anani, an Egypt expert at Durham University in England. In recent weeks, members of opposition groups have portrayed the Brotherhood as “occupiers” of the state and extremist clerics have countered that the demonstrators are “infidels,” he said.
“They’ve adopted a very extreme discourse. And there is no common ground,” Anani said.
In his Saturday news conference, Obama noted that because Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world, continued instability could spread.